Where does he get those wonderful toys...
Posted 1 year ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
Psst.....I’m Batman..... No really, RockSteady has provided the cape and cowl, beckoning me to once again return to Arkham, although this time it isn’t the criminally insane inmate facility that is Arkaham Asylum. Nay, this outing has me heading into the mean streets of Gotham itself, into a sub-section of the city that has been cordoned off, dubbed Arkham City. With the Asylum not fit for keeping the local crazies locked down, a plan was set in motion by Dr. Hugo Strange to allow them free roam of the center of Gotham. Naturally, things aren’t exactly what they seem with the good doc, which means our caped crusader (i.e. ME!) needs to put his detective skills, along with all his wonderful toys, to the test in order to uncover what’s really going on...
Batman Arkham City is simply awesome. Go buy it. Review complete...
Okay, okay, I know, I can’t just cut things short like that. Really, Batman Arkham City does deserve a lot more love than a single sentence can provide, even if it is one that essentially wraps up my entire recommendation. The game kicks off with an on-rails introduction, similar to the way Arkham Asylum began with the Joker’s incarceration. Bruce Wayne is lobbying against Arkham City, and is immediately arrested and added to the criminal population within. Once inside, it is apparent that the playboy billionaire is nothing more than a walking target, even gaining the eye of the infamous Penguin. After surviving the initial encounter and escaping to the rooftops, he calls Alfred for a little care package, i.e. his alter ego. Putting on the cape and cowl ends the intro and the full breadth of Arkham City becomes a BatPlayground. Literally.
This is where RockSteady’s changes will begin to come into view. Arkham City is, in every way, bigger and better than its predecessor. Many developers promise this, but a lot of the time, bigger isn’t always better. Fortunately for our Caped Crusader, this is one promise that actually delivers, as Arkham City took everything we loved about sleuthing through the Asylum, and then pumped it full of steroids. While Arkham Island did indeed offer some open exploration, you never quite realize how constricting it was until you take flight (or glide, as the case may be) across the Arkham City skyline. Maneuvering from rooftop to rooftop, navigating the city streets, battling gangs of thugs, it all still FEELS like Batman, only on a much grander scale. This is a double edged sword though. Expanding the play area does a fine job of giving the Bat more places to explore, and provides lots of places for his rogues gallery to take up shop. But it also costs a certain measure of intimacy, and a bit of tension as well. Tip-toeing through the halls of the Arkham Asylum medical wing, listening to the banter coming from the group of baddies in the next room as you plan your attack, created this nervous atmosphere that made the muscles tense up and the palms sweat. Arkham City, just by the nature of its design, loses a lot of that. It’s still present in certain areas, notably the sewers and the museum, but overall that intensity has dissipated.
Speaking of Batman’s rivals, Arkham City is a virtual cornucopia of iconic names drawn from his entire history. Do you remember the first time you approached a cell within Arkham Asylum, and found personal belongings and other little tidbits indicating that you have found the home of Clayface or Penguin? We never actually SAW these guys, but it was the little hints scattered about that made them just as much of a presence as Bane or Killer Croc (both of which you would eventually face off with). That giddy inner fanboy is about to go bananas in Arkham City, as just about everyone who was hinted at in the first game are very much real within the stone walls of this metro prison. Clayface? Check. Penguin? Check. Two-Face, Mr Freeze, Calendar Man? Check, check, and check. In fact, there are only a few high profile baddies that don’t show up in one fashion or another. The main storyline intertwines with multiple others, making it very easy to get distracted, running off to save a group of guards from Penguin or seeking out the cure for Titan poisoning. It reminisced of last year’s Red Dead Redemption, where quite often you would find yourself running off to hunt wild game or capture Wanted bandits instead of pushing the narrative. Here, you really have two primary storylines tightly woven together, with roughly nine side-missions to accomplish at the same time.
Most of the foes from Arkham Asylum are present and accounted for, including Mr. E. Nigma himself, The Riddler. Yes, this virtual pain in the rear is at it again, trying to out fox the dark detective by scattering tons of statues and riddles across the city, along with upping the stakes a bit by holding hostages that can only be rescued after a certain amount of his puzzles have been solved. Naturally, since there are more places to hide, there is a quite a bit more Riddler material to uncover. To Rocksteady’s credit, acquiring all of them is considerably more challenging this time around. From complex mechanisms to craftily hidden trophies, completionists will certainly be tested. The rewards are greater as well, with page after page of concept art, plenty of 3D models, and many Challenge Maps to unlock.
The Challenge Maps themselves have not only increased, but also come in two flavors: The returning battle arena type from Arkham Asylum and the new Campaign maps that throw modifiers into the mix. Not to mention that you can now create your own by picking your map and which modifiers to apply. These, in addition to the New Game Plus mode that unlocks once you finish the game on Normal or Hard difficulty, provide plenty of replay value.
Batman himself hasn’t been neglected neither. He’s picked up a couple of new tricks since he left the Asylum in the hands of the authorities. Arkham City is a big place - roughly five times as big as the maximum security medical facility. As such, he needs a more effecient means of travel. Cue the new glide mechanic. The Bat’s cape opens up when he is in a free fall, allowing him to float his way around the metropolis. Unsurprisingly, it works very well, and when upgraded (which happens about a third of the way in), you can get from one end of the city to the other quite quickly.
The other big change, and one that I personally appreciated, was made to the Detective mode, an x-ray vision of sorts that allows Batman to pick up on notable items and spot nearby foes. Arkham Asylum was not only filled with nods to the Bat’s history, it was also gorgeous looking all the way around. Unfortunately, many (myself included) didn’t spend a lot of time appreciating all the detail that Rocksteady put into it, since most folks stayed in Detective mode throughout the game. Pretty visuals just wasn’t compelling enough to eschew all the valuable information that the alternate view provided. Now, things have been tweaked a bit. You can still see your enemies and the pertinent parts of the landscape that Batman can interact with. But the rest is a darker, slightly muddier and less pristine, pushing players to turn the mode off and enjoy the game as it was meant to be. And in practice, coming from a guy who was more inclined to use Detective mode all through Arkham Asylum, these changes work really well. I would pop into Detective view, glean the information I need, and pop back out.
Rocksteady applied their “bigger and better” approach and applied it to the “good guys” too. Oracle returns to provide the Caped Crusader with remote support once again, and she is joined by Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler who was conspicuously absent in the last game. Both the original Robin (Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing) and the current Robin (Tim Drake) appear as playable characters via The Riddler’s Challenge Maps. Unfortunately, both are DLC, with Nightwing available now and Robin available as a timed pre-order exclusive. And finally, we have Catwoman. Free for those who buy the game new, she is an option for the Challenge Maps and has her own mini-missions spread throughout the campaign. Playing as Ms Kyle is has its own sense of style. Fittingly, her moves are more graceful than powerful, in contrast to Batman’s brutal fisticuffs. She isn’t as strong as Bruce, nor as well defended and she doesn’t have as many toys to play with. Regardless, she still puts the hurt on her enemies with an elegant dance of death. Sadly, while including her within the story is a great concept, her execution leaves a lot to be desired. It comes as little surprise that she has her own agenda, she is a thief after all, but her four very short missions felt tacked on and completely unnecessary. Rocksteady could have removed her story altogether and it wouldn’t have made any impact on the overall package whatsoever. As I said, I loved the idea, so it’s disappointing to see how her role came out.
Fans of the comic franchise will be thrilled to roam the streets of Arkham City. Billboards, store fronts, and all manner of iconic locals, from Wayne Towers in the distance outside the walls to Arkham Asylum off the coast to the fully-explorable Gotham Museum and the Solomon Grundy Courthouse, there’s plenty here to see. The level of detail and polish found within the visuals are simply stunning. The gradual nicks and tears on Batman’s costume, the icicles that form around the eves where ever Freeze happens to be holding up, the dynamic calendar on the wall near the Calendar Man’s cell, the variety of thugs and how their look changes depending on who they are loyal to (Joker, Penguin, or Two-Face) and much, much more create an ambiance not found in any other comic book-based video game. And supporting all that is a fantastic voice cast, highlighted by Mark Hamil’s Joker and Wally Wingert’s Riddler. In fact, for a guy from the 1980’s, like myself, Riddler was a real treat with the way Rocksteady presented him, always with this Max Headroom-like stutter that fit the character perfectly.
Given that Arkham City was only Rocksteady’s second game, I was cautiously optimistic about Arkham City. It was entirely possible for them to have hit a lucky shot the last go round, and this time things wouldn’t quite live up to expectations. I began Arkham City with reserved anticipation and quickly found that any concerns I had were all for naught. That bit of magic pixie dust they put on Arkham Asylum has been lathered all over the sequel by the handful. Every aspect of the game has been improved in ways that made it difficult to put the controller down. The couple of minor blemishes I noted can’t even put a scratch on what the package as a whole has on tap. Do I hear a Game of the Year contender? Most certainly. Rocksteady has once again set the bar for comic book game adaptions and at the same time, delivered one of the best games you will play this year.
+ Loads of new faces from the Bat’s rogues gallery
+ Tons of content
+ Flawless mechanics
+ Gorgeous visuals and voice work
- Not as tense or intimate as Arkham Asylum
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Release Date : 2011/10/18
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Warner Games
Developer : Rocksteady Studios
Category : Action-Adventure
ESRB : T
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10